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MAN urges FG to help scale up in-country production, drive diversification harder

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) rose from its national council meeting held in Port Harcourt on Thursday, March 19, 2020, urging the Federal Government to come to the critical task of defending the Nigerian economy by helping to scale up production of essential goods in-country.

A statement read out by the president, Mansur Ahmed, at the Hotel Presidential after the two-day meeting warned that nobody can say when the economic turbulence can end, further warning that the oil economy has crashed.  He made it clear that the global economy has been decimated and Nigeria is threatened by this.

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“The oil industry has virtually collapsed and it is going to pull at the heart of the real sector. It is going to be a huge setback for Nigeria. If the CBN should scale up the manufacturing sector to sustain production of essential goods especially foods, drugs and others, Nigerians would have a chance,” he said.

Commending the initiatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so far especially the N1.1 trillion intervention fund out of which the real sector would get N1 trillion, Ahmed said the next attention by the CBN is the commercial banks that would handle the implementation.

Urging the CBN to ensure effective implementation of the intervention fund, MAN warned of the activities of commercial banks, saying they always cause setback on laudable FG policies.

MAN further expressed concern over the turbulence in the price of crude oil and admonished government to remain committed to the diversification of the economy. Many have pointed to agriculture and manufacturing especially import-substitution manufacture as the urgent step to take.

For that to happen, MAN argued the power sector must be given fresh but deeper attention. Ahmed said: “MAN noted Disco inefficiencies as a major lacuna in the power sector and hereby declares a total opposition to the new tariff of electricity under consideration by the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission. From past experience, increase in tariff was never supported by increase in power supply.”

MAN has always been at the forefront of stopping any tariff increase and is always in court with NERC and the Discos.

While expressing appreciation to the FG on palliative measures (CBN Intervention funds) to manufacturers on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, MAN encouraged government to match policies with implementation. “Government needs to put in place remedial measures to offset whatever shocks associated with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.”

MAN council looked at the states thus: “The highlight of the meeting included submissions from 16 branch chairmen that make up the nationwide network of the Association. For Ogun and Lagos State; manufacturers are still bedevilled with the water abstraction charges which are regarded as counterproductive to the policy on ease of doing business.

“The port congestion and traffic gridlock still remain a challenge to manufacturers especially at the Apapa corridor. The Rivers Branch has encouraged the FG to make the port in the state fully operational and give meaning to the helpdesk setup for manufacturers.

“Political instability in Plateau State challenges smooth conduct of business and poses a source of insecurity to life and property.”

MAN said some states have initiated business-friendly measures to boost the economy and create jobs, and pointed at Rivers as one such states. “We commend State Governments that are responsive to the needs of manufacturers and appeal for better cooperation from Governments that are not too responsive.  In order to improve advocacy on issues that challenge manufacturers, the consensus was that MAN Branch network should deepen their engagement with relevant public sector authorities.

The council asked other states to emulate the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) protocol just initiated in Rivers State to reduce difficulties confronting manufacturing and other businesses. Ahmed said testimonies from members in Port Harcourt showed that security has been restored and that regulatory agencies in Rivers State now work harmoniously with manufacturers and businesses to boost the economy.

He went on: “First, I must commend the Executive Governor of our host state, Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, for ensuring improved security for citizens and businesses and on EoDB. These are signs of the State Government’s commitment to support business in the state. This we believe is supportive of increased tempo in manufacturing production.”

In this regard, manufacturers in Rivers State will complement the good gesture of the government with increased investment expected to create more employment and deepen peaceful investment environment.

In addition to infrastructure upgrade in the state, MAN council has also noted and wishes to commend the government of Rivers State for the introduction of technical vocational training as part of youth skill empowerment programme.”

Flanked by the national treasurer of MAN, Isaac Aboye; the acting Director-General, Ambrose Orushe; and the chairman of the Rivers/Bayelsa chapter of MAN, Adawari Mc-Pepple, the national president admitted that border closure was not good for intra-African trade agreement regime, but agreed with the FG on the action because of massive smuggling across the borders against the ECOWAS protocol. He also pointed to smuggling of weapons to threaten Nigeria.

He was positive that in few months time, with serious consultations with neighbouring countries actions they have been taking on the protocol, there would be outcomes that would warrant the reopening of the closed borders.

The council frowned at states that do not seem to care about manufacturing but urged them to follow the Rivers exemplary steps and boost their economies.

Reviewing the reports from states, the council frowned at activities of regulatory and revenue agencies in most states that press harder on manufacturers and depress the economic growth in states. The report singled out Ogun and Lagos where they said manufacturers were still bedeviled with the water abstraction charges which they said is regarded as counterproductive. “How can government that failed to produce water turn round to tax companies that tried to provide boreholes after the same companies had paid taxes?”

The report decried continued traffic congestion at the Lagos port with attendant traffic especially in Apapa; and urged the FG to make more efforts to support PH and eastern ports to take up more responsibility and thus provide relief to the economy.

MAN council regretted that political instability in Plateau State has continued to pose threats to businesses through ravaging insecurity.

The national president said his administration resolved to move the council meetings round the states; thus Kano and now Rivers/Bayelsa have had shots even as he profusely commended the smoothness of the Port Harcourt meeting and harmonious atmosphere noticed between the host government and the business sector.

 

Ignatius Chukwu

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